India: NSG’s Precedent


Sun’s out, guns out! Summer is upon us, the mercury is spiking. It is ironic that India once again with upcoming BJP government seeking for the approval of a country’s bid for the NSG membership.  A body established 40 years ago to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes, as was done by India itself. The Group needs to adhere to its principles in letter and spirit or deal impartially with Pakistan, which is also interested in participating in NSG. There has to be justice and fair play instead of creating an exception to the rules!

Like the 2008 decision of granting India a special trade waiver, the idea of admitting the country as a member of NSG violates non-proliferation norms. The issue of prospective Indian membership begs answers to several questions about India’s nuclear security and other matters.

NSG exemption for India represents a danger to the nuclear nonproliferation regime, as there is no chance that India will sign the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state for gaining NSG membership. India’s refusal to sign the CTBT is another obstacle to the entry into force of a treaty that is repeatedly declared by the international community to be one of the most urgent measures in the struggle to prevent vertical and horizontal nuclear proliferation.

The NSG decision on India also opens the door to violations of Article I of the NPT. Article I requires that states “not it any way…assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.” India, under the terms of the NPT, is required to meet the criteria of a non-nuclear weapon state. Thus if under the US-India deal Canada were to provide India with uranium, which would facilitate accelerated warhead production using domestic uranium, Canada would arguably be in violation of the NPT.

In addition, the NSG states clearly ignored Resolution 1172 of the UN Security Council that was passed in 1998 following nuclear tests by India. It called on India “immediately to stop its nuclear weapon development, to refrain from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons….” The resolution also called on India to join both the NPT and the CTBT.

Pierre Goldschmidt, a U.S.-based nonproliferation expert, opposed the waiver and the U.S.-India nuclear deal. Goldschmidt believes that the “India exemption” to NSG members should agree on criteria that would require India to conform to the contemporary understanding of the NPT bargain. The damage done by this exemption to  become irreparable if NSG participation is also managed.

With all the diplomatic muscles show going around the debate about principle is over with having India outside or inside NSG. Ernie Regehr, a Canadian peace researcher and expert in security and disarmament also stated that nonproliferation efforts are not to be guided by a set of rules that applies equally to all rather to be based on judgments about good and bad guys. States that are regarded, or are being courted, as friends to key powers are allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. For those outside the select circle, it is an all-options-are-on-the-table commitment to prevent proliferation. The rule on which the NSG has heretofore been built – no trade or cooperation with any state that does not place all of its nuclear programs and facilities under safeguards – is now to be applied selectively. India’s NSG participation without similar concession to Pakistan would seriously threaten the credibility of the NSG and the non-proliferation regime.

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